Of Lions and Roosters

Chinese New Year continues — for many, it’s a full two-week holiday — and yesterday was day eight.  In China, eight is a lucky number related to fortune and prosperity, which means that yesterday merited big celebrations.  We knew something was up when we started hearing the banging of drums from our living room at 9:30 in the morning.

I ran down to find a lion dance in full swing in the courtyard of the condo building across the street from ours.  These lions are impressive — they’re not just dancing, but they’re moving their tails and mouths and eyelids so that they look like real animals.

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The lions’ focus was a small circle of red roosters, mandarins, gold coins, spring onions (huh?), a mysterious gelatinous-looking cake, and good fortune candy (that’s what it’s called — I saw the box).  IMG_9780.jpg

The lions danced around this offering, and they stared at it …

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…and they pawed at it …

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… and they reared up on their hind legs over it:

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Eventually one of the lions also stood up to retrieve a small packet that was hanging from a string tied to a beam (if the internet is to be believed, this packet was a bundle of lettuce, in which was hidden either some money or some candy):

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And then both lions, to my surprise, sat on the little pile of offerings.  I wasn’t sure why they were doing this until little kids started to gather around them — and then the lions started flinging roosters, candy, lettuce, and peeled mandarin orange segments from their mouths out into the crowd.

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The lions ended this part of the show by unrolling scrolls from their mouths.  I’m not sure what this one says, but I’m hoping that my friend and sometimes translator @themagicspaceship will be able to help out.

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The Guardian of Wealth also showed up — also throwing candy — to join his lion friends.

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All in all, it was a great performance.  I thought I might go deaf standing next to the enormous drum:

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And Prescott, who came in late, was generally bemused by the whole scene.

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I like having a really long holiday — it’s festive and fun.  Chinese New Year decorations remain up all over Singapore, including at the Rail Mall (essentially a strip of shops near the old rail line) near our house.

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2 responses to “Of Lions and Roosters

  1. hehe *flies in with beeping sounds* Chinese New Year is officially 15 days, and each day has its own name and traditions! I don’t know about most of them except that the 15th is one of two opportunities a year for glutinous rice balls, which are great 😛

    Those are the latter three characters of “金玉满堂”: house filled with gold and jade. From squinting and google, I think the other lion says “五福临门”: five fortunes arrive at door. That’s a common saying but I had to look up the five fortunes. Dubious translations: longevity, prosperity, health, morality, a good death.

    These are couplets which come in pairs and are usually put on both sides of doors. There are a lot of rules about matching characters, and also requires calligraphy, so coming up with them is a high culture thing, unless you buy them mass-produced. See a cool example with explanation at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couplet_(Chinese_poetry)

    Like the new blog theme, by the way!

  2. Oh, and the lettuce is for “green picking” apparently because green is a homonym for the Qing dynasty which was being overthrown. The vast majority of our traditions are pun-based, which is awesome. The glutinous cake is nian gao, which translates to year cake, a homonym for “higher/better year”. Wikipedia says “This sticky sweet snack was believed to be an offering to the Kitchen God, with the aim that his mouth will be stuck with the sticky cake, so that he can’t badmouth the human family in front of the Jade Emperor.”, which is also amazing. You can find it at bakeries but it does not taste good in my opinion.

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